Stage Start: Alpha 4:05 XX
Location: 1121 Bleakwood Drive, Rise Elegance Estates
Fate has a way of manifesting to be plainly seen in times of great vulnerability; as if all time slows to a crawl and your life choices leading up to that very moment are strewn about in front of you like a losing hand of cards in an unwinnable game. It’s in those moments that you realize all the mistakes and all the wasted time that could have been spent bettering yourself or helping others. But what if your entire life has been spent as a model of decency and good moral standing? How many times must you sacrifice so much in order to save others before fate deals you a better hand?
Those were the thoughts running through the mind of Onyx’s leader, Portland, at this most inopportune moment. Everything about this mission had felt off since the moment they were called into action to attempt to rescue a mother and son. Never had he felt the kind of ominous dread that was slowly splitting through his heart and core. This was the first time in his entire career as a Special Operations member that he felt completely and utterly vulnerable; and it terrified him to no end. The fear of death was never something he had to confront and even now it was not the overriding thought in his mind. Instead, he cared more about the lives of his team. They trusted him completely and yet Portland knew that he had led them to what was likely going to be their final mission; perhaps also their demise.
His knees almost buckled under the weight of that realization; how could he have failed them so greatly with the first inkling of something nefarious eating away at him before they ever stepped foot off the helicopter? His entire career, his entire life, was defined by being an incredibly adapt leader and brilliant strategist. But he knew for an almost certain now that he had been fooled into leading his troops into this undeniably certain failure. His worst fear would now become reality and there was nothing he could do about it. The weight of those thoughts must have actually caused him to bend a bit as Cordova tightened her grip on his shoulder.
“You okay, boss?” she asked in a whisper over the comms.
It was no surprise to him that she sensed something was off; she had that way with everyone she interacted with. It was as if she could sense the emotions emanating from a person and would do or say whatever she could to try and dispel any negative ones before they got out of control and overwhelmed. She could shoot a target with deadly accuracy from nearly twice the distance the average Soldier was able to hit and could carry nearly double her own body weight, but none of that was nearly as important as her calming abilities. It wasn’t working as well as it ordinarily did as they stood there, perched above the breaching charge, waiting for the all clear from Leeds to set the charges and the raid into motion.
“Bollocks! The drone’s been made. We need to go in, and go in now before they have time to set up further defensive positions.” she sounded more frustrated than worried, but that was how Leeds always was in these kinds of situations. Logic guided her emotions and not the other way around.
In spite of every negative thought or feeling coursing through Portland’s mind and body, now was the time to abolish them all and get down to business. He, and the rest of Onyx, had to allow their training and experience to take control of their actions from this point forward and react in a timely and efficient manner. The space between where the bullets fly is where the balance of life and death resides; a wrong choice means a life is lost. There was no room for mistakes when the repercussions were so literal.
“K.C., you’re on. Set off your breach on my mark, and wait for us to get their attention. Cordova, you’re with me once we set ours off, watch your corners when you jump in, they’re expecting us now. Leeds, keep an eye and ear out up here, and come in only if you’re needed. On my mark, Kay: Three, two …BREACH!”
That was all that K.C. needed to hear as he was champing at the bit to get in the house and eliminate the enemy forces that stood in their way. He slid his free hand over the PDD screen that was linked to the explosive charge on the garage door which in turn set the explosive off with a thunderous boom. It took everything in his power to keep himself from charging into the charred opening with his rifle blazing. The adrenaline of the situation was nearly too much for him to control, but he had the strength to stay in place. He was expecting some sort of enemy fire through the newly made opening but there was nothing. The planned distraction hadn’t seemed to…distract anyone. He knew that as soon as he began to hear the others making contact, he could rush in and try to cut anyone off at the knees as they fell back. If they hadn’t reacted to his false entry, they surely should have been to the actual breach on the roof. But he heard nothing. That’s when he couldn’t resist any longer and decided that now was the time to make his way inside the house and get the drop on the enemy.
He removed a smoke grenade from his combat harness, plucked the pin out, and tossed it into the garage. As he waited for the bloom to build, he lowered his infrared lensed face shield down from his helmet; this would allow him to see any heat signatures through the blanket of smoke. It was technology like this that gave Onyx Detachment such an advantageous edge over the competition on the battlefield; regardless of what type of environment they operated in. K.C. was such an efficient operative that he knew just the right amount of time to wait before making his way into the garage to give him the most concealment; which was right at that moment to be exact.
Entry into the smoke-filled garage could have been described as a work of art had someone been observing it from afar. He moved with a silent, smooth movement that one could only learn through years of experience. Ideally, you never wanted to clear a room alone, since you could only look and aim your weapon so many different directions, mainly one. But under the cover of the smoke, and the speed in which he was able to enter and move, he cleared the entire multicar garage in a matter of moments. There were no targets in sight and he could not hear anything that would give away their position further into the house from where he stood near the doorway. The smoke began to dissipate in the air and he pushed his way further into the house. The first obstacle was a hallway that led to what must have been the kitchen; which was twice the size of a normal kitchen due to the elegance of the mansion. He still hadn’t heard any sounds coming from upstairs nor had he heard anything directly around him as he slowly made his way down the hall with his weapon up at the ready.
K.C. was used to haphazardly going against the original plans and using it to his advantage by surprising and overwhelming the enemy before they could react. By creating confusion, panic, and shock he could often take out groups that far outmatched him in firepower. Though it drove Portland, and especially Cordova, crazy…they couldn’t deny that it worked. Why am I not doing that now? He thought to himself, as he slowly inched his way towards the kitchen area. Had things been going the way they always went, he’d be tossing flash bang grenades and breaching walls as went to cause the most amount of disorientation as he could. The gradual crawl he was doing now was completely out of character for him but he couldn’t stop himself from doing it that way. Nothing about it felt right, but it was the action he decided on. He thought he heard a sound coming from the kitchen and tensed up to meet it as he approached the doorway. Instead of throwing in a grenade, he dipped his head briefly around the corner and saw nothing.
That’s when he heard two very distinct, sharp pops from directly behind him and felt an incredible burning pain rocket up through both of his legs starting somewhere from his knees. He buckled under the weight of the shock and his own gear and crumpled onto the floor chest first. Realization had yet to set in as his mind raced to process what happened and what went wrong. His first reaction was to reach over to his wrist to activate his comms and plead for help from the others in Onyx. But before he could even begin to move to do that, he felt the weight of someone straddle him from behind and dig their knees into his shoulders. This prevented him from moving his arms at all and had the effect of also making him aware that he couldn’t move his legs even if he wanted to. He tried to make some effort to yell through the agony he felt, but a gloved hand cover his mouth. He heard only the sound of someone breathing as they got near his ear.
“Şimdi sessiz ol. Hush now, silly boy.”
It was a honeyed, soft, and thoroughly menacing whisper and the last thing he ever heard before feeling the knife slide deep into the side of his neck.
Portland’s next move was waiting a few long moments to listen for any signs that the distraction charge had worked. His thermal breaching charge was activated and slowly cutting out a hole in the roof just large enough for them to jump down into. Had the plan been going as expected, they would have already heard exchanges of gunfire immediately after K.C.’s blast went off. The only sound to be heard was that of the scorching tiles and wood at his feet. That did not mean that they weren’t going to still have a decisive victory in the conflict, but it would have made things a lot easier going forward. He felt confident in their ability to stand toe to toe with anyone in the world when it came to combat, but it was always better to have a tactical edge. It made things go a lot smoother.
Slow is smooth, smooth is fast. He reminded himself right as the charge was finishing its cut. He gave the section of the roof in the middle of the charge a sturdy stomp and the rest of the remaining materials fell into the darkness below. A double tap to Cordova’s leg gave her the “go” signal and she leapt into the opening first, as was planned. That was the last thing that went according to the plan.
Gunfire erupted the moment she hit the floor of the attic below, but it was directed at the opening instead of Cordova. It prevented Portland from following behind her and nearly hit him squarely in the chest and head. He was unable to pinpoint just where the fire was coming from, but sent a few bursts of fire back into the direction that made the most sense. He then knelt just out of view of the opening and tapped the comms button on his PPD.
“Cord, if you’re okay down there, I don’t have an angle on them, you need to find cover until I can get down in there or find a new way in!”
He spoke in a half whispered voice that did not betray the panic he was feeling. It felt like ages for him to receive the “double click” affirmative response from her, but to his relief he heard the tone. Leeds was knelt down next to the chimney and tapping quickly over her PPD in an attempt to update her battle projections with the new information. Portland did not have to direct to her to so, as she was always well ahead needing direction of that sort. There was doubt now creeping into the forefront of his thoughts as he mulled through the options he had for making it inside the house. He couldn’t risk going through the breach, as they would be waiting for him and it could put Cordova into more danger.
They would also know that there were others on the roof still and he did not want to blow Leeds position. He decided that the best thing to do would be to rappel back down to a window and make a mechanical breach through there; which essentially meant using his weapon to bust open the glass and his momentum to swing through the frame. Leeds did not need to be told his new idea, as she gave a nod when she saw him hooking back up to the line.
Cordova felt the shock of the landing somewhere in her face as she hit the floor of the attic that was blanketed in darkness. The darkness did not last long after touching down though, as flashes of gunfire exploded from somewhere near her position. Her first instinct was to go into the prone position and attempt to return fire at her attackers. But she noticed that the fire was not directed towards her, but rather up towards where she had just fallen down from. She was not sure whether or not the enemy had seen her and decided that the best thing she could do is try and get into a better position and then return fire. She was hiding behind some sort of old wooden furniture covered in a sheet from what she could make out, but knew that it did not make for the best cover. Portland came over her headset with a message letting her know that he’d have to come in another direction. That was all she needed to hear in order to get away from there. With a defiant grunt, she began crawling her way the opposite direction of the barrage.
Thanks to the size of the mansion, there were many different ways for her to go and she lucked out by finding a trap door tucked behind a bend in the ceiling. She opened it up and slid down into what looked like an unused spare bedroom. She could still hear the popping sound of assault rifle’s firing somewhere above her as she cleared the room’s corners and the adjacent bathroom. The door to the bedroom was closed and the last thing she wanted to do was to alert anyone on that floor that she was there. She paused for a moment and came to grasp with the fact that she had little choice. Advancing on the enemy with the element of surprise was out of the window now, but she could still use her ability and firepower to subdue anyone waiting for her on the other side of the door. Had things been how they always were, she would have just burst through the door with a head of steam and efficiently take out anyone in her way; but something was different now and she wasn’t sure why.
Instead of whipping the door open and clearing whatever was in front of her, she removed her helmet and placed an ear against the door in an attempt to hear anyone good or bad on the other side. At first, she heard nothing but her own rapidly beating heart booming in her ears. And then she heard something that caused that heart to skip a beat and pump even harder. It was the sound of heavy footsteps making their way down what must have been a long hallway accompanied by a very robotic, throaty breathing. It was very “Vader-like” in both sound and the menacing way it had about it.
Cordova was a veteran warrior known for her fearlessness and calm approach to the hardest of situations and yet she stood there frozen in utter terror at the sound approaching her. Instead of kicking open the door and attacking first, she made the decision to duck back into the room behind the canopy bed and aim her rifle at the door. She was always the one who brought everyone together and made them at ease in times of crises, but all she could do now was sit back and wait for the worst. She wanted to fight, but her body was betraying her mind. So she sat and she waited. And the sound got closer.
What happened next was not entirely unexpected, but still caused great distress and confusion as the wall of the room exploded into splintered shards of shrapnel and debris. The shockwave knocked her back from the crouched position she was in directly into the wall with enough force to momentarily knock her senseless. She hadn’t returned her helmet to her head, which may not have helped much anyway. Her brain was screaming in pain and she felt as though her ears were going to explode with an intense buzzing sound. Splinters had dug their way into her face and neck, which she was too disoriented to feel the pain from. Before she could even get her bearings enough to realize what exactly had just happened, the deeply breathing man entered through the new gap in the wall and removed his masked helmet revealing a large grin and blonde mohawk.
“There you are, you fucking bitch. Didn’t take long to find you, yeah?”
The voice was much less menacing than the breathing apparatus he had been wearing, but she couldn’t really hear him clearly by that point anyway, so it did not matter much. She made an awkward attempt to move and reach out for her rifle, but only then did she realize just how injured she was. Her hands were a mangled mess of fingers, glove, and blood.
“Aye, that’s a bad idea isn’t it, mate.”
She could hear that just a bit more clearly than before and winced in pain as she gathered whatever strength she had left to fight back at the man who was getting closer and closer to her. But no matter how much fight she had in herself, her body did not match it and failed her. She slipped on the edge of the bed and fell onto her side. Breathing was hard now and she figured that the blast must have done some sort of internal damage. All she could do is watch the man’s feet get closer from under the bed and listen as he began unhooking something from his own battle rig.
“Big man would be in quite a fuss if I let you get away now. Looks like I’ll have to do this the hard way.”
She had lost so much blood by that point that she couldn’t be bothered wondering who or what he was referring too. She just wanted to crawl away and warn the others or maybe just sleep. Instead, the last thing she would ever hear was the sound of the man hitting the arming and detonation buttons on an explosive in unison. Her life and world went out in a flash of blinding light and deafening sound.
It took Portland longer to find a suitable window to break through than he would have liked as many of them had been blocked with various large dressers and other pieces of furniture, likely to deter any snipers from getting a good look inside. He had to bounce around the outside of the wall in all directions before finally finding one that he could get through. With their cover already blown, he wasn’t worried about the amount of noise he’d make going in, so he’d at least try and make a show of force out of it. He smashed out a few window panes and tossed in a flash bang grenade; all the while dangling upside down above the window frame. He had no idea whether or not anyone was in the room or what was even awaiting him as he spun himself around to make entry. With a smooth bound off the wall and a kick with both feet through the now broken glass, he was gliding inside.
There was no gunfire welcoming him this time, but instead just dead silence and a cluttered child’s bedroom. The only light was the dim glow of a pirate themed nightlight and the hallway chandelier through the cracked door. Portland immediately regretted leading with a flashbang, as it seemed as though nobody would have noticed his entry otherwise. He could add that to the ever growing lists of second guesses and mistakes made tonight. A good leader made mistakes, but was able to adapt and counteract them with smarter decisions, but things felt wrong from the start and were only getting worse.
His thoughts of self-doubt were interrupted by a rumbling explosion from somewhere deeper inside the house. His throat was as dry as ever and his heart sank at the thought that one of his team members had just been caught up in the blast. He rushed to the door and opened it up just enough to get a look at his surroundings; a set of stairs and a hallway that lead in two general directions. He heard the recognizable pop and snap of rifle fire above him and knew that Leeds must have been spotted; her submachine gun had a distinct burst pattern to it which he heard return fire right after. As soon as he stepped out into the hallway and towards where he could possibly surprise whoever it was shooting at her, another blast shook the house and was much louder this time.
Before he could contemplate what might have happened, a man dressed in all black and with features to match appeared around the corner end of the hallway and opened fire with a shotgun. That may have been the only reason Portland wasn’t struck directly, but still took some buckshot to his vest and arms. He was well armored and was only brushed back by the shot while also returning fire with his own weapon towards the target. His rifle was much more powerful and tore through the man’s own body armor, causing him to crumple to his knees and toss his weapon aside.
“Don’t you fucking move, you hear me?!” yelled Portland at the man who appeared to be fatally wounded. As he hollered the command, he made his way towards the man with his barrel still pointed directly at him. He kept an eye out for any other attackers along the way.
The man was sucking in gasps of air while watching Portland approach him, though he made no attempts at going for another weapon.
“I….didn’t…want…this. It…was…him…” choked the man through the sound of blood that was filling his lungs and chest cavity.
“Who? Tell me who he is? How do we know him?” asked Portland, trying to get whatever info he could from the man before he perished from his wounds. He had a feeling that he knew the man, and whoever he was working with, but he still wasn’t sure how.
But the injured man could speak no more and slumped over dead moments later. There was nothing else he could learn from a dead man, so he continued clearing the rooms and hallway looking for any sign of the hostages, the enemy, or his team. The mansion had a multitude of rooms and it was not ideal to be searching such a large area alone, but he was left with no choice. He came across the source of the explosions from earlier in the form of a completely destroyed wall and a room full of carbon, blood, and gore that could only have been two people. It took everything inside of him not to lose his cool upon seeing that sight and double downed on trying to find the enemy and bring them to justice. Cordova wouldn’t have wanted him to abandon the mission and lose his cool, even if that’s what he wanted to do. The worst case scenario had happened, but that did not mean that the mission had to be a failure just yet. He could still save the others and the hostages. So he pressed on to a second set of stairs and worked his way down them, making sure to always keep his weapon pointed towards likely sources of an ambush.
At the end of the stairs were a majestic looking set of barely open double doors that lead into the small foyer the mansion possessed. Portland took a look inside and had to shake his head a bit at what he saw; sitting in the middle of the most unlikely spot you’d want to keep them were the two hostages. From what he could make out, both of them had bags covering their heads and were alone in the room. He made one final look around the room to try and spot any traps but did not see anything to cause any major concern. He crept through the doorway into the well-lit foyer ready to react to anything surprising that might be waiting for him. What he failed to realize is that the second floor hallway had a railing which allowed a view of the entire room, but he discovered that problem as he got near the hostages in the center.
“Not another step or your friend here is going to join the others.”
A voice echoed throughout the hall, causing Portland to turn around quickly to look up above the doorway he just entered. He knew upon seeing the source of the voice that the man was not simply bluffing. It was the familiar yet unknown face that had been clouding his thoughts all night. And he held a large pistol to the side of an already visually injured Leeds’s head. Looming in the shadows just behind them was a menacing looking woman with a mask covering the lower part of her face and hair pulled tightly back behind her head; she had a light machine gun leveled down at Portland. They were as terrifying a duo in looks as the situation felt.
“What is it you want?” asked Portland, in the most authoritative voice he could as to not betray the fear he had for Leeds and once again having to try and fight through that awful tightness building up inside his chest.
“To win.” said the man in a calm voice before pulling the trigger and sending a bullet through one side of Leeds head and out of the other.
“No! You Fuck!”
Portland raised his rifle in unison with his shout but was cut down in a hail of fire from the woman’s automatic rifle. He was dead before he hit the ground. The last thing he saw was Leeds lifeless body being dropped to the floor by the now grinning man. None of the history, the experience, or the good deeds prevented the end he met that night. Death was the hand that was dealt in spite of all those things.
Stage End: Omega 4:42 XI
Location: 1121 Bleakwood Drive, Rise Elegance Estates
Surviving: Kazan, Ankara
To Be Continued in Part 2.1